How Can A Daily Walk Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Doctors are always telling us to go for a walk — for our mental health, our hearts, our joints, our brains, our sleep, and more. But what about our blood sugar?

It's important to maintain healthy levels of blood sugar, or blood glucose (via WebMD). When we eat foods that contain carbohydrates, like potatoes, bread, fruit, and pasta, glucose is released during digestion. It enters the bloodstream and then the pancreas creates insulin, a hormone designed to help the blood glucose penetrate the cells. Once it enters the cells, glucose is used by the body for fuel, and whatever isn't used is stored in the liver for later. Blood sugar is important for brain functioning – if we didn't have enough blood sugar, our brains wouldn't be able to work.

Those with high blood sugar may not have enough insulin to let it into the cells and out of the bloodstream, or they have enough, but the cells aren't responding to it. For those with diabetes, blood sugar builds up in the bloodstream and potentially causes long-term damage, increasing the risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye disease.

How can you maintain healthy blood sugar levels?

A healthy diet, regular exercise, and medication can help keep your blood sugar levels in your target range, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And even something as simple as a daily walk can help.

According to the American Diabetes Association, exercise can help lower blood sugar by making the body more sensitive to insulin, which allows the muscles to use available insulin more readily and allows access to more glucose for energy. Muscle contractions during exercise also allow blood glucose to enter the cells whether or not insulin is available. Physical activity can even lower blood sugar levels for a full 24 hours or more after exercising.

Research shows that in adults aged 60 or older who were inactive and at risk for glucose intolerance, 15-minute walks after each of their three meals per day helped them experience better glycemic control (via American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Care). Surprisingly, these intermittent walks proved to work better for managing blood sugar than one longer walk per day. But according to WebMD, just one 30-minute walk five times per week is enough to prevent diabetes in those who have prediabetes.